Friday, 22 April 2011

Render unto Caesar, says Archbishop

Rowna Williams goes for that With The Beatles look


On Maundy Thursday each year, the Archbishop of Canterbury performs the ritual of the washing of the feet in imitation of Jesus. On Radio 4 this morning, he suggested that the rich and powerful learn about charity and humility by working with the poor for a few hours. It's a nice Easter message befitting of a vicar at this time of year, but he couldn't just leave it at that. He had to preface it with those six little words that are as sacred in modern society as anything in the scripture:

"What about having a new law..."

Ah, the great cry of our age. The words on everyone's lips. Such is the thirst for law-making you would think we were building a nation from scratch.

The quote in full:

"What about having a new law that made all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate? Or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home? Walking around the streets … at night as a pastor, ready to pick up and absorb something of the chaos and human mess you'll find?"

Again, there's nothing wrong with the sentiment. Certainly, there is a perception that the rich and powerful are out of touch, just as there is a perception that the wealthy could do more for charity. Whether those perceptions are correct is not always easy to tell since it is considered vulgar to boast about the work you do for charity. And rightly so. But Rowan Williams—for it is he—thinks that charitable work would be more virtuous if it was compulsory.

"Maybe having to do it, to do it in public and not to be able to make any sort of capital out of it because they had no choice?

Williams could not be wronger. Charitable acts enforced by coercion are not worthy of the name, just as charities that are funded by the state without the consent of the taxpayer are not charities. It would be more noble to make "capital" out of charitable acts than to do them because you have "no choice."

If you're a religious man—as I assume the Archbishop of Canterbury is (although it's hard to tell with the Church of England)—charity and humility are very important to your faith. There is, however, a division between Church and State; a division that Williams seems not to recognise.

It's been a while since I read the Bible but I don't remember Jesus calling for new laws to be made. I do recall him saying something about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's and rendering unto God what is God's. On that basis, the Archbishop of Canterbury should his beak out of politics and achieve his goals through the power of prayer.

Happy Easter.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Anti-Smoking lobby money trail and the vested interests involved.

http://f2cscotland.blogspot.com/2011/03/electioneering-starts-but-public.html

James Higham said...

Charitable acts enforced by coercion are not worthy of the name, just as charities that are funded by the state without the consent of the taxpayer are not charities.

Therein lies the law and the prophets. Profits?

Richard White said...

"It's been a while since I read the Bible but I don't remember Jesus calling for new laws to be made."

God had quite a few though!

Good food for thought though, couldn't agree with you more.

westcoast2 said...

I find the words of the Archbishop strange, perhaps he might take the time to reread Mathew, espcially the parts realting to the Law, Pharasees and Scribes.

The retort "Render unto Caesar....On that basis, the Archbishop of Canterbury should his beak out of politics and achieve his goals through the power of prayer."

"Render under Caesar" asks the Question "Do you follow the Law of man or the Law of God?" and is a good question to ask of the Archbishop in this context, however does it give a justification for going on to suggest he keep his 'beak out of politics'? Did Jesus stay out of politics?

The use of Law to compel is not a way forward. Blindly following a 'Law' rather than freely choosing to do something charitable renders the act meaningless.

timbone said...

"I come not to destroy the law, but to make new ones"...uh...no...JC did not say that. "I come not to destroy the law, but to fulfil the law"...mmm...then he got crucified because he didn't want to fulfil it the 'right' way.

Bucko said...

It is often said that the rich are out of touch with the 'common folk', but I think it could just as easily be said that poor people are out of touch with the rich.

Why not make poor people spend some time with the rich to see how much work and how many sacrifices they had to go through to get where they are.

To make the poor see how the rich enhance the community by creating employment. To see how much tax is taken from higher earners, etc etc.

Why not have a law that in order to draw your benefit, you first have to do some fifteen hour days with the people who put the most money into the benefit pot.